Saturday, March 11, 2017

'Nirvana Cabal' update

"I thought you lot were supposed to be the experts on molluscs in medicine," said Evangeline van Holsterin -- head barmaid at the Old Entomologist -- handing over our pints of Old Sheepshagger, with a cocktail umbrella in Another Kiwi's pint and a cape gooseberry-onna-toothpick in mine. "So how come the press never consult you for comment each time the 'Medical uses for cone-shell venom' story is gurged up again?"

"It's because we are fearless, probing, incorruptible," I said. "Our prose style is not for the masses... coruscant, sesquipedalian, perhaps even sempiternal."

"Smut says 'feck!' too much," AK vouchsafed, opening the cocktail umbrella over his glass to stop stunned flies and small birds falling into it.

"It's because you're both loonies," Evangeline opined. She took herself off to forestall an altercation at the shuffleboard table, where Greenish Hugh had eaten the puck under the impression that it was a bar snack.

This latest version of the medicinal-conotoxin story appeared in PNAS, heralding the synthesis of a modified α-conotoxin peptide (RgIA4) which blocks the α9α10 nicotinic acetylcholine receptor (nAChR) without affecting opioid receptors. YAY SCIENCE! A press release was stovepiped to the usual credulous churnalists, pre-dumbed-down so they could sign their names to it with the minimum of effort [soon to be followed by another ruefully head-shaking PNAS editorial about the parlous state of science journalism and the low repute into which scientists have sunk in the eyes of the general public]. Behold and marvel at the result:
These scientists have turned to venomous snails but are not clear on the concept of 'tiny'.
No, wait:
...tiny, venomous snails that live in Caribbean waters carry a compound that can alleviate pain in sick patients without using the addictive pathway opioids do.
"Oh," we thought, preparing ourselves to squee with delight, "'tiny snails'... will they be on the sub-millimetre scale of Angustopila dominikae, but with the added appeal of venom?" Imagine our disappointment to discover the self-centred perspective of this airheaded gombeen:
Conus regius, or the crown snail, is a tiny critter that, at its largest, reaches just under 3 inches (7.5 cm).
CHECK YOUR MEGA-FAUNAL PRIVILEGE, people. 7.5 cm is not tiny (unless you inhabit a world in which all objects are either larger than or smaller than a breadbox), it is feckin huge by the standards of scorpions and spiders and honeybees and the cone-shell's other rivals in the world of invertebrate toxicity. We can only suspect that the Quartz churnalist was not satisfied with the amount of Stupid contained in the PNAS press release and felt obliged to add some of her own -- bringing her article to such a concentration of Stupid that it could probably be used as a non-addictive anaesthetic or painkiller -- so she went to the unusual effort of looking up Conius regius in the Whackiweedia, where its maximum size is incorrectly given as "7.5 cm",* and then converted that to 2.953 inches... hence the implausible precision of "just under 3 inches".
... it appears that it binds with completely different receptors than opioids. Theoretically, this means that it wouldn’t be addictive
Because only opiate-type drugs can be addictive. This is good news for drinkers and smokers!
* More specialised conchological sites agree that the size of a full-grown Conius regius is more like 10 cm.

This is not the Nirvana Cabal we were looking for.

These are not the Nirvana Cabal we were looking for either.

Just saying, "Nirvana Cabal" would be a good title for a Blue Öyster Cult album.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi Smut
Sorry that I have not been in contact for so long.
Please could you have a look my most recent post. You know were to find it.
I think you could could use the info to update an old interest of yours and know that you would do a much better job of covering the news than I have.
If you do decide to do anything with it be careful because of the legal implications ref the court cases.

Also as an aside you maybe able to have some fun with the post Drama and intrigue, about a third of the way down ref Belize.

All the best Malarkey
P.S Do delete this message if you want as it has nothing to do with the blog it is posted under.